Following the crash of Lion Air flight JT 610 in Indonesia, many nervous flyers may be feeling even more anxious about air travel.
When a tragic air accident occurs, it can seem to confirm our worst fears - particularly if you have a flight phobia.
If you need to take a flight soon and the thought has you shaking in your flight socks and clutching the arm rest, these tips may offer some relief.
Before your flight, there are a few calming techniques you can use to ease your anxiety – mental preparation is key. Many of our fears around flying are unrealistic – the likelihood of getting into an air accident is extremely low – and cognitive behavioural therapy techniques can help us counter these negative thoughts.
Talking to news.com.au, Ben Evans, who runs courses to help people overcome aviophobia, said it was possible to replace negative thoughts with realistic ones – although it was more easily said than done.
"Some questions that you can ask yourself include what evidence do I have for and against my thoughts? Is there another way to think about this situation? Is the way I'm thinking helpful?" he said.
"Eventually your unrealistic thoughts will be replaced by accurate thoughts, leading you to feel less fearful."
Avoid dwelling on disaster
Thanks to the internet, we're exposed to more bad news than we used to be – and when an air accident occurs, the constant stream of updates on news sites and social media can become overwhelming and addictive if you're already nervous about flying. If you have a flight coming up, try to make a concerted effort to avoid such stories – it will only make you more anxious and you won't miss out on anything by not reading them.
When preparing for your flight, ensure you have plenty of distractions to keep you calm. Think about which movies you might watch, or pack a good book to keep you engaged. If the sounds an aircraft makes triggers your anxiety, consider investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block them out. Some airlines also have meditation programs amongst their in-flight entertainment – Air New Zealand offers Headspace and Stars of Aroha meditations in its audiobook section.
One of the most basic and useful calming techniques is to learn to breathe consciously. Without realising, many nervous flyers begin hyperventilating – or breathing very shallowly – while on a flight, which only adds to feelings of anxiety. Before your flight, practice soothing breathing by inhaling in through the nose and out through the mouth as slowly as possible. If you're worried about panic attacks, this technique can help combat them if the scenario arises. There are even apps that can help with this – try Breathe2Relax or Relax Lite: Stress and Anxiety Relief. Both are available for Android and Apple.
Learn more about aviation
A lot of fears around flying actually come from ignorance around the processes involved – as well as the fact that you have no control over the situation. Try and learn everything you can about flying and store these facts at the back of your mind. Revisit them when your worries arise during a flight – if you learn why flying is the safest form of transportation, it can help settle some of these fears.
If none of these techniques offer any comfort, it may be time to admit you have a phobia and seek help. In New Zealand, Grant Amos offers a Flying Without Fear course that he has run for over 30 years. He sees a wide variety of clients – many of them very successful in their fields - and has treated everyone from chief executives to marketing directors, journalists, accountants, receptionists and truck drivers.
The course covers anxiety relief, relaxation techniques, aviation education and how to plan a flight and feel in command of the situation. It also includes an orientation trip around an airport to increase the familiarity of the environment.